Saturday swap — Alternatives to commercial air fresheners

April 17, 2021

Do you enjoy adding scent to your home? While I’ve never been a fan of commercial plug-in air fresheners (which seem a misnomer to me — opening a window freshens the air, pouring chemical scents into the air does not), I do enjoy more subtle, natural fragrances. Nothing too perfumy or fake smelling, just a hint of something wonderfully, naturally aromatic please!

green background with white text that reads: "'Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains.' — Diane Ackerman"

I burn a candle at my desk when I’m working, add citrus scents to my homemade cleaning products, and spritz the air now and then with something to perk things up or calm them down, depending on the day! 

We talked about candles on the blog this week, which is the classic way to scent your home. And as long as you’re thoughtful about purchasing quality candles with non-toxic ingredients, it’s a great option. But I thought you might also like to read about some other choices for scenting and freshening the air that are safe, natural, inexpensive, and easy to do (really, as easy as plugging in those Glades!)

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Spray Fresheners. You can purchase natural spray fresheners, or you can easily make your own. Simply add about 20 drops of essential oil(s) to about a cup of water in a spray bottle. To help the oil mix with the water, you can also include a couple tablespoons of rubbing alcohol or real vanilla extract. But that’s optional. Just make sure you shake the bottle before spraying.

Linen spray is the basically the same as above, but it’s used to spray bedding, towels, and cloth-covered furniture. Lavender is the classic scent for linen sprays. I spray bedding with a very light hand, because I don’t want it to be even the slightest bit damp. I especially like to use linen spray to freshen clothes as I’m ironing.

Ring burners. These clever, circular burners contain a groove to hold essential oil. Just place the ring on a lightbulb and add a couple of drops of oil in the groove. When you light the bulb, the heat will disperse the scent into the room. You can rinse out the ring now and then to change scents, if you like.

Ceramic aromatherapy diffusers typically have a spot for a candle in the bottom and a little dipped area for essential oils on top. As the candle warms the oil, it releases the aroma into the air. I like the simplicity of these diffusers (which, honestly, remind me fondly of my hippy days), and there are all kinds of options for pretty jars

Black reed essential oil diffusers placed in a square amber jar beside a clear glass vase of natural eucalyptus

Wood diffusers. There are also wood diffusers that basically just hold the oil in a little carved out space, no lighting required! The wood absorbs a bit of the oil and, over time, it very gently disperses into the air. Plain wood blocks containing essential oils are also available. These would be perfect for tucking in a suitcase!

Reed diffusers. I love that reed diffusers are so simple and effective, and I think many of them are lovely to look at, too! Like wood diffusers, they’re perfect for times when you don’t want to worry about the flame of a scented candle or candle diffuser. Simply place the wooden reeds in the fragranced oil and leave them out in the room! You can purchase reeds and concoct your own scent, or you can buy a set of reeds and scented oils for diffusing. 

Electric oil diffusers. There are many options for electric diffusers, which atomize the water and essential oils to mist the air. Some include timers and ambient light, too.

Clay diffusers. These are decorative and super convenient. They can be used anyplace — your office, your car, your hotel or Airbnb. Simply drop your essential oil onto the clay and place it where you’d enjoy the scent. Some come on little jute hangers or ribbons that make them easy to hang. (I’ve hung one on the rearview mirror of my car.)

Potpourri. Does anybody make or use potpourri anymore? Back in the day, I always had a bowl of it out! Eventually I grew tired of the dead flower look, though, and turned to other options. Still, occasionally I’m ever so tempted to make a new one (can’t think of a better way to seal my granny status!)

Simmering potpourri. It’s always lovely when something delicious is cooking in the kitchen and the aromas greet visitors at the door. Of course, there’s not always something wonderful cooking in the kitchen! So just gather a handful of spices and fruits in a small saucepan. (Think orange peels or slices, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and vanilla or almond, for example.) Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered. Be sure to check the water from time to time (I set a timer) to refill it as needed. 

wood-look electronic essential-oil-diffuser/natural air freshener

Need more inspiration or want to explore further? Here’s a book of recipes for creating your own natural room sprays. It explores the use of specific essential oils for particular results (to eliminate odor or headaches, reduce stress, etc.). Natural Air Fresheners and Natural Homemade Air Fresheners offer recipes for all kinds of fun, effective, non-toxic homemade air fresheners. 

A final note about essential oils: It’s fun to experiment with pure essential oils (which are plant extracts) to find scents that you love. I like adding citrus scents (orange, lemon, grapefruit)  to cleaning products. (If you want something really cleansing, you might try tea tree and/or eucalyptus, though I find those a little overwhelming.)  In the fall I turn to cedar wood and white fir. There’s plenty of cinnamon and clove oil around in the winter, and right now, for the springtime, I’m experimenting with floral scents such as geranium, rose, and lavender. 

Keep in mind that a little essential oil goes a long way — especially if, like me, you’re sensitive to scents.  And you need to keep them out of the reach of children and pets! 

There are many more options for scenting your home, of course. What do you do? 

Take good care,

Headshot photo of Karen Mary with her signature in blue ink to the right

P.S. Stop by the blog every Tuesday for the latest posts — next week we’ll learn how to care for terra cotta pots! In the meantime, here are some posts you might want to visit this week:

Candles — Choosing and caring for them (new post!)

Keep your yoga mat clean — How and when to clean your yoga mat

How to care for succulents


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